In Tijuana, chaos amid the mud // City tries to dig out after slides

  Sally Ann Stewart;Jonathan T. Lovitt


  USA Today


  Page 03A

  (Copyright 1993)


  TIJUANA, Mexico - Car salesman Rudy Macias walked through his

  neighborhood, counting the mud-covered cars and the foundations stripped of

  their homes.


  ``The people in this house have not been located,'' says Macias, 35, pointing to a

  boxy white stucco house mired in mud up to the second-story windows. ``I think

  we'll find them under the mud.''


  The search begins this week, as Tijuana (pop. 742,686) starts digging out of the

  mudslides and drying out from the storms that have pounded the border city for a



  Across the border, California has been hit hard by heavier-than-normal rain. This

  month, southern California has received more than 4.75 inches of rain, 58%

  above normal.


  Arizona suffered too, with its worst floods in a decade.


  East of Phoenix, about 700 people were forced from their homes Sunday along

  the usually dry Salt River, and portions of a $6.6 million bridge under

  construction in Tempe collapsed Saturday.


  U.S. Weather Service meteorologist Gary Neumann said, ``It looks like we're

  locked into a wet weather pattern at least through Thursday.''


  But even last week's dramatic snowstorm in northern California and scattered

  mudslides in posh southern beach communities don't compare with the

  devastation just south of the U.S.-Mexico border.


  Fourteen people have been confirmed dead here. Thousands are homeless.

  Hundreds are seeking food and blankets in emergency shelters, and hundreds

  more can't get through the mud to safety.


  Chula Vista paramedic Celia Diaz - head of the charitable Binational Emergency

  Committee - is swamped trying to line up portable toilets, portable showers, food

  and medicine for flood victims.


  ``We're right across the border, and we see the problems every day, but now

  we're scared that there will be a major infection problem because many (victims)

  haven't been able to shower for four days now,'' Diaz says.


  At Injude, one of this city's 59 temporary shelters, 219 Mexican families ate food

  donated by U.S. residents.


  All over the city Sunday, residents were arming themselves with shovels and

  starting to dig out. But others were still traumatized by Thursday's floods.


  ``We don't know how we're going to fix any of this stuff,'' said a tearful Julia

  Sanchez Munoz, 41. Schoolteacher Munoz, her husband, Luis, and 10-year- old

  son Sayet were sleeping when a 6-foot wall of mud slammed into their home in

  the low-lying middle-class Calle Miguel Aleman neighborhood.


  ``In less than 10 minutes we were totally flooded and got trapped,'' Munoz says.

  ``My boy was screaming for me, and I couldn't find him. All my books, all my

  records, all my mementos. All gone.''


  Gabriel Rosas, spokesman for Tijuana Mayor Hector Osuna, says the shock

  outweighs the real damage.


  ``The situation just isn't that bad,'' Rosas says. ``If a true state of emergency was

  declared, the army would impose martial law.''


  Many here believe Osuna is downplaying the damage, even though he's received

  rescue help from the U.S. Coast Guard and San Diego city lifeguards.


  ``The mayor is dead wrong,'' says Tijuana lawyer Marcello Raygosa, 42. ``If he

  thinks it's just a small problem, he must not have been to our street.''


  CUTLINE:NEIGHBORS MISSING: Alfredo Leyva, left, and Rudy Macias

  search Sunday for occupants of a house swamped by mudslides. `I think we'll

  find them under the mud,' Macias said. CUTLINE:`ALL GONE': Schoolteacher

  Julia Sanchez Munoz, 41, and son Sayet, 10, inside their flooded Tijuana home

  on Sunday.

  GRAPHIC,b/w,Julie Stacey, USA TODAY (Map,Tijuana); PHOTOS,b/w,Bob

  Riha Jr., Gamma-Liaison